Day 3 – North Uist to Isle of Lewis (62 miles, 2010 ft of ascent)
When we woke up it was raining so we decided to aim for an earlier ferry from Berneray to the Isle of Harris and miss touring around Berneray. We had just over 20 miles to cycle, around a 1.5 – 2 hour ride with luggage and on the small roads. As we got going the rain soon became very heavy so there were very few views. The ferry was small which meant it hadn’t got a cosy lounge so we gradually became very chilly, when the ferry arrived in Leverbugh on the Isle of Harris an hour later we were very cold and as we set off into the drizzle we were both feeling a bit miserable! But on the plus side I’d found the most amazing looking place for lunch and it was just 10 miles away so we both got our heads down and got going. The western coast of Harris is stunning, much more undulating than the southern islands we’d been on until now, the road undulating up and down as it winds around the coastline framed by white sands and turquoise seas. Not quite looking that way today but we kept trying to imagine and reminding ourselves to seek out the beauty in the mist shrouded beaches and hills.
The Machair Kitchen didn’t disappoint at all, it was a newly opened very modern cedar clad gallery and café in a dominating position looking over Niseabost beach and the sound of Taransay, on a clearer day the view would be like this:
(Photo credit to Talla na Mara Community Enterprise Centre which owns and manages the Machair Kitchen).
We ordered soup and a sandwich in the attempt to warm up and were glad we’d packed space saving towels as we were wet through, it also functioned well as a blanket! It looked like the rain was perhaps slowing but by the time we were thinking of getting going the heavens opened and we found ourselves nursing our drinks and then buying cake just so we could shelter a while longer. But the time came, we had to get going, just 30 miles to go but some big hills to climb, the ones the people on South Uist had warned us of!
The route was undulating for the first 5 miles after the stop before we started the climb which would take us up and over into Tarbert, the town where we would return to catch the ferry to Skye in a few days. The second climb out of Tarbert would be harder and even in my lowest gear I was struggling to keep the bike going, fortunately after a quarter of a mile the gradient eased slightly and I was able to get into a climbing rhythm. The rain had eased now although as we climbed over the passes we rode into the cloud and we started to wish we’d brought lights with us! We both enjoyed the descent and were looking forwards to getting warm and dry, just another 10 miles or so to go to the Blackhouse Bothies where we were staying for the next two nights.
The Blackhouse Bothies.
We turned off the road onto a stony drive down a steep hill, it wasn’t obvious where we needed to go, we came to a newly built huge garage and shouted hello, Mark shouted back to ask if he could help us and then proceeded to pull our leg, suggesting we weren’t in the right place! Mark and Joanne welcomed us in with one of the warmest welcomes possible and made us feel like we’d known them for ages, I don’t think either of us have ever met people quite like Mark and Joanne, they instantly made us feel at home. They suggested we left our bikes in the next door garage, then turned the underfloor heating on in the utility and told us to help ourselves to the washing machine. Mark asked us what alcohol we liked, we both politely diverted the conversation as we walked down the path to the Bothies which were almost on the Loch Shore, the scenery was just stunning, even in the drizzle. As we walked we chatted and found out a lot about Mark and Joanne, they really were fascinating people. They showed us round the Bothie and then Mark reminded us we hadn’t answered his question about alcohol, he then listed every kind of alcohol under the sun and asked us what we would like. We went in to get dry and settle in and 10 minutes later there was a box of beer on the table outside!
When I’d been planning the trip I’d enquired where the nearest place to buy food was as the bothie had an outdoor cooking area, there was a shop 11 miles north but for us arriving from the south this would add an extra 22 miles to our day, I enquired where the nearest place to the south was to be told it was 18 miles away and the other side of a mountain pass!! A week or so later Joanne emailed me to say they would cook dinner for us, she gave us a few options and we accepted very gratefully!
Once we were clean and dry we wandered back up the hill to do our washing and ended up having another hour or so chat with Mark and Joanne, learning all about their lives and adventures they’d been on. Joanne presented us with a hamper with dinner in along with a bottle of wine. After we’d eaten in the Bothie we again wandered back up the hill and ended up having cups of tea with Mark and Joanne! What a day it’d been and what amazing people we’d met.